Cocktails by the pool, living it up in luxurious tropical resorts, seeing some of the world's most popular sites, and getting paid for it — what's not to love? Of course, the real life of a travel writer looks nothing like the image you probably have in your mind, and the competition for even the smallest gig is much tougher than you could possibly imagine. That doesn't mean it's impossible — someone has to write those travel guides and online reviews that people use to plan their trips — but getting paid to do it will require a serious commitment on your part.
First and foremost, know that the field of travel writing is largely a world of freelancing, which means taking on a contract for a single article, book or review. You probably won't have any of the standard benefits that come with a 9-to-5 job, and don't expect any consistency either — you might be able to scrounge up quite a few gigs one month, only to find yourself pinching pennies the next month as you scramble to find your next assignment.
Still think this is the job for you? Many well-known travel writers recommend becoming both a traveler and a writer before attempting to do both at the same time. Rick Steves spent six summers bumming around Europe before he ever made a dime from travel writing. He spent this time building the interpersonal, budgeting and traveling skills required for success in the field. Seth Kugel, who arguably has one of the most recognized travel writing gigs on the planet as The New York Times' Frugal Traveler, still says that he considers himself a writer who travels, not necessarily a travel writer. Even budget travel books still strive to find the most well-traveled people they can when hiring for new publications.
As you add stamps to your passport, practice your writing. Try building a blog or website to showcase your work and fine-tune your craft — you never know who will read it and offer you work. Lonely Planet writer and former editor Alex Leviton suggests finding an underserved niche — he got his job thanks to his website, where he wrote about travel in Afghanistan.
When you think your traveling and writing skills are up to snuff, reach out to publications that may pay for your work. Try travel sites, guidebooks, magazines and newspapers. Writer and editor Katka Lapelosova from the Matador Network suggests emphasizing what you can do to help the publication grow or meet its goals — ask for its editorial calendar and see where you can provide the perfect piece. Lonely Planet editor Sam Sellers suggests simply submitting samples — it's how he got his travel writing gig — and anyone is welcome to do it.
- Ashe, Hannah. "I Want Your Job: Travel Writer and Editor for Matador Network." College of Charleston, July 16, 2014. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://today.cofc.edu/2014/07/16/want-job-31-travel-writer-editor-matador-network/
- Bluestein, Adam. "The Jagged Career Path of New York Times Travel Writer Seth Kugel." Fast Company, Sept. 20, 2012. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://www.fastcompany.com/3001465/jagged-career-path-new-york-times-travel-writer-seth-kugel
- Chicago Tribune. "Travel Writer." 2014. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/careers/sns-jobs-cool-jobs-travel-writer-story.html
- George, Don. "Effective Habits of Great Travel Writers." Lonely Planet, Sept. 23, 2013. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/effective-habits-of-great-travel-writers
- Mitchell, Chris. "How to Become a Lonely Planet Travel Writer – An Interview with Simon Sellars." Travel Happy, 2009. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://travelhappy.info/travel-writing/how-to-become-a-lonely-planet-travel-writer-an-interview-with-simon-sellars/
- St. John, Warren. "A Job with Travel but No Vacation." The New York Times, July 9, 2006. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/09/fashion/sundaystyles/09TRAVEL.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
- World Nomads. "Making it as a Travel Writer: An Interview with Alex Leviton." April 10, 2014. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://journals.worldnomads.com/projecttravel/story/112252/Worldwide/Making-it-as-a-Travel-Writer-An-Interview-with-Alex-Leviton